Are you a GOOD actor or are you a SMART actor?
Every actor needs to have a strong acting foundation, a deep understanding of human behavior, and the training and stamina to sustain a character and story, whether on stage, on TV, or on film. A solid acting technique allows us to analyze a script, break down moments, personalize the story, express subtlety, range and disappear into these imaginary worlds. It allows us to show the audience something interesting and unexpected, to shine a spotlight on human emotion, something that surprises them, keeps them guessing, and compels them to follow us on our character's journey. Without technique, there is nothing for actors to rely on when they have to do 15 takes of a very emotional scene, or 8 shows a week on a Broadway stage. How can an actor possibly find it in them to access these emotions when the well runs dry? All of this is essential to sustaining a career as a professional actor. Otherwise you can be a one trick pony.
I believe actors should always be in classes, whether it's a theatre scene study class, an on-camera acting class, an audition technique class, an improv class, or anything else where they can nurture their talents. Acting technique is developed through trial and error, through testing your limits, challenging yourself in a safe environment, making mistakes, being uncomfortable, and not worrying about the result. This is where artists are made, much in the way a dancer has to practice every day, or an athlete has to practice his skills on the field.
But here's the truth. Actors need to also have marketing savvy. They need to work equally on treating their career as a business. There are 76 TV shows now filming in New York, and if you want a career in TV, you need to educate yourself on the market, the agents, managers, casting directors, know how to walk into a room, nail an audition, and convince them that you are right for the job, whether you studied at Julliard or did one production of Godspell in your hometown. Everyone is in the same boat, and to be in that boat, you need to access the practical side of your brain. Who's casting what? How do I get in front of them?
Technique doesn't matter if you don't know how to SELL yourself. That means know your type, have a terrific headshot and demo reel, pay attention to social media (yes, followers), and make sure your work is being seen by the right people. That means know all the shows you are right for, who casts them, and who the showrunners are. I know actors who spend all their time in class, have tremendous breakthroughs, but don't spend enough time putting their work out there, in front of the right people. I also know actors who have little training but spend thousands of dollars at casting workshops, hoping to throw money at the problem. Rather than learning true "technique," they are just learning the pet peeves of various casting directors, and hoping if they meet them enough times a "relationship" will be established. I also know actors who "don't watch TV." That's just cray. Left side technique. Right side business.
Actors have to find a way to combine the craft of acting with the practical, business side. Don't be lazy. It's about knowing how agents, managers, and casting directors see you NOW, not 10 years from now. Look in the mirror. How do people see you? When you first start out, you will be cast for playing roles close to who you are. Later you can worry about range. Everyone has to start somewhere. There are big agents who will take you on, and immediately send you out for series regulars. That is a certain kind of actor, with a certain level of talent. There are other agents who will push you for co-star roles, and want to build you up from the bottom. Nobody cares that you played Romeo in college. Now you are fighting for a one line role on a TV show, against actors with drama degrees from major conservatories. And guess what? For a big TV show, they are getting thousands of submissions for that one role, and those are coming from agents and managers alone. It's not about being the best actor, it's about being the right actor. How do you get to be one of those actors? How do you go from the self-submitting abyss of Backstage and Actors Access to the agent and manager club? How do you go from a freelance client to a signed client? What agent is right for you? Bicoastal? Boutique? How many clients do they have? What's the difference between an agent and a manager? How the f*@k do you get auditions? Business savvy.
These are all things that actors must know if they want to make that leap from the non-union, student film world, or the safe bubble of an acting class, to the competitive world of union TV that is absolutely taking over the market in New York. No longer do actors need to be in LA to have a TV career. New York is where it's at, but you have to play the game. Does a casting director workshop make sense for you? Do you need to spend money to get in front of that casting director or are you not ready yet? Are you spending too much money on "scene study" classes and not enough on "how to audition"? Forget about your Stella Adler training for a second. Ask yourself what you need to do to be SEEN, to execute the script, to take direction quickly, to deal with last minute auditions being thrown at you, script rewrites, hwo to memorize 12 pages in a night, etc. Are you doing enough? Is your reel good enough? Does your headshot truly represent you? The best actor in the world may never get seen if they don't have the right headshot.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if an actor went to Julliard, studied Meisner for 8 years, took hundreds of casting workshops, or has never taken a class in their entire life. All that matters is what is happening when that camera is rolling. That two minute audition. Audition technique is key, as you will spend a lot of your career in a room in front of casting directors and producers, and you have to love it.
Laziness gets you nowhere. If you aren't being called in from submissions, whether through self-submissions or though your agent, then create something yourself. Don't sit around and complain that there are no parts for you. Self-produce! It's easier than ever to create a web series for no money. Get out there and put yourself on-camera, post it on social media, create a Youtube channel, write an amazing part for yourself and knock it out of the park. Maybe you will get lots of viewers and one of these agents will find you that way? Very possible. Use the business savvy to bring your talent to the forefront. Think outside the box, and don't just blanket the town with headshots or pay to meet every casting director. That's not being smart. Being smart is knowing who you are, what you have to offer, being confident about it, targeting the right peopel, and presenting yourself as a professional and an actor that people want to work with and spend money watching.
If you want to be a professional actor, don't be lazy. Technique will only get you so far. Make yourself known, educate yourself on the business, and use the business half of your brain to get in front of the right people and see your true talent.
Good luck, and keep kicking ass!